Wed, Jul 12, 2006 - Page 5 News List

New Zealand recalls unrest sparked by sport

BLOOD SPORT In July 1981, South Africa's Springboks arrived in the Shaky Isles for a rugby tour which triggered off two months of mayhem in the multicultural country


"You defended your turf that night with baseball bats. Pro-tour people invaded and wrecked houses, left anti-tour people unconscious on the lawns," he said.

Things went from bad to worse as the tour progressed. Police laid into 2,000 protesters outside parliament in Wellington, where "the batons started flailing and the air was filled with the sound of wood whacking unprotected bones and flesh," the Evening Post reported.

The rugby tour ended, eight weeks after it began, with violent scenes in Auckland, where cars were overturned in the streets as a light aircraft buzzed the stadium, dropping flour bombs on the players.

New Zealanders on both sides claimed victory, rugby fans pointing out that only one game was canceled and the protesters saying they had put an unprecedented international spotlight on sporting contact with the apartheid regime.

The Springboks did not leave South Africa again until apartheid was ended and president Nelson Mandela, who had been incarcerated under apartheid, later personally thanked New Zealanders for their contribution to ending it.

He was quoted as saying that when he heard about the protests in New Zealand, "The sun shone through the dark corridors of the cells."

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